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Lawmakers outline priorities as Iowa Legislature gavels into session

DES MOINES, Iowa (KTIV) - Once again, Iowa's economy is growing. Tax revenues are expected to be higher through the end of this fiscal year, and the next fiscal year. But, that doesn't mean lawmakers will be able to pay for every priority.

There are 150 lawmakers. And, as many opinions of what to do with extra tax revenue that a recent report says the state will see in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

Spend it, or save it?

"Both," said Sen. Jim Carlin, (R) Sioux City.

Carlin says some priorities need the revenue.

"You know there are some programs around the state that need some better funding," said Carlin. "Mental health needs better funding."

"Unfortunately," said Rep. Gary Worthan, (R) Storm Lake, "most of it is already spent." The state must cover annual increases in Medicaid, state wages, and education.

More revenue could come from a penny increase in the state sales tax. "If it comes down to a penny sales tax, which is going to be a hard sell for me because I do find that regressive," said Rep. Tim Kacena, (R) Sioux City. "It hurts those who can least afford it."

"My goal is to make Iowa government not cost the citizen more this year that it did last year," said Sen. Jason Schultz, (R) Schleswig.

About half of that extra penny would fund water quality and outdoor recreation programs. The rest could help lower tax rates, or accelerate the 2018 tax cuts that are designed to be phased in.

Like last session, lawmakers will push for one of Governor Kim Reynolds's priorities: criminal justice reform. Specifically, restoring voting rights to felons after they serve their time.

"I just think there's going to have to be a couple of areas where they're not going to restore them," said Rep. Tim Kacena, (R) Sioux City. "I know a lot of people who are convicted of the murders, the kidnapping, the killing of children, there's a lot of sentiment that they should never vote again."

Iowa is the only state that forces felons to petition the governor to get their voting rights back after they complete their sentence.

"I don't like the idea of giving a blanket restoration of voting rights," said Sen. Zach Whiting, (R) Spirit Lake. "I think we have a system in place right now, where on a case by case basis the governor can restore those rights."

Lawmakers will likely push to fund the governor's "Future Ready Iowa" program, as well. The program's goal? To make sure 70% of Iowa workers have training or education beyond high school by the year 2025. "What I see are people wanting to make a good life for their families," said Sen. Jackie Smith, (D) Sioux City. "Iowa sure needs workers, and I support them."

Lawmakers have a limited, 100-day session in which to work.

Tuesday morning, we'll hear what Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds wants lawmakers to focus on.

She'll deliver her "condition of the state" speech at 10:00 a.m.

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